“But she's no big romancer. A Rocket Man without a Tiny Dancer...”
These were lyrics local band the Morning Herald sang to a sold-out crowd during a recent show at Ortlieb’s in Northern Liberties.
Okay, sold out is a stretch.
In fact, it’s a complete fallacy. In all, there were about seven people, five of them being friends of the band. But that didn’t stop the Philly indie rock group from singing their latest single, “Fall Back To Earth” as though a mosh pit was in full steam.
Comprised of current and graduated Villanova University students, their latest song has become the unofficial anthem to the school’s latest NCAA men’s basketball championship win. The band encapsulates the up-and-comer motif – strikingly talented with a unique sound that bridges clean and gritty, a solid set-list, successes at the start of their music journey, and majors in finance and engineering that they hope never get put to good use.
After their “intimate” gig, PW caught up with lead singer and guitarist Zach Leone, guitarist and back up vocalist Daniel Schmetterling, bassist and back up vocalist Cole Chebi, and drummer Nick Miller.
Is it discouraging when the turnout is low?
Cole: Absolutely – not.
Zach: The good part about being a college band at the moment is that we have these opportunities where we can go to a basement and then we can go to a school organized event, and you have two completely different audiences. But I feel like our music can fit both vibes. It's dirty enough for the basement, but also clean and anthemic enough for a large hall.
Nick: It helps you find your sound too, we played shows this size and up to the big guys. You get to play with a lot of different bands. [At Ortlieb’s], we were sort of the headline act. I think we have a sound dirty enough and grungy enough to work with [this space], but as we said, we have cleanness too. I mean these bands are true indie rock, very hipster, very cool and calm, and we can follow them up and still feel like we belong.
How would you describe your sound?
Nick: We tried this before, and it's hard. We've been called a lot of things.
Dan: Indie rock.
Cole: Filthy classic.
Zach: Classic rock, rock 'n roll filth.
Dan: We also got a balls-out indie rock.
Nick: That's probably the best.
And your music influencers?
Zach: Indie rock artists, like The Killers is a huge one, Catfish and the Bottlemen, sometimes Oasis, Pixies, and Arctic Monkeys. Pretty much the big dogs of indie rock.
What has been your coolest experience so far?
Zach: I'd say last spring we opened up for Saint Motel, which was really awesome. Those guys definitely made us feel like we were in the big leagues, especially when [performing] sound check in front of them. We got in the green room with them so you got the full catering.
Cole: The lead singer offered me some of his goji berries.
Zach: It was wild. At that moment we were like "Alright, this is what could happen."
So you just released “Fall Back to Earth,” but you have a number of originals under your belt. Can you talk about your finished works?
Zach: Dan and I wrote and recorded "Undiscovered Oceans" which is the debut album. We did that for ourselves, just on the computer, learning how to mix and master in the process. That was a 12-track album. Then this past summer, starting around May, we began recording this new three-track EP called "Pure Electricity," and that was pretty much a mishmash of recording ourselves and having some outside help come in and produce. Most recently we just put out a new single "Fall Back to Earth" which we've been trying to pump up as as the Villanova Wildcats’ anthem for their most recent victory.
How has the school’s reception been to the song?
Zach: It's coming along, you know people have adopted it. We made a couple hype videos during the tournament, showing a lot of video of the basketball team. Those ended up getting some traction online.
Is “Fall to the Earth” a sign that something new is in the works?
Zach: Yeah, we're still writing. We're at a point right now where we are playing a lot of shows, but we are always thinking about new songs and new material to work on.
We're also always kind of thinking about new songs and new material to work on. So we kind of put this one out just as the March Madness was going on to keep the Villanova community spirit alive.
Zach, as the lyricist, what did you have in mind when writing “Fall Back to Earth?”
Zach: I always had the idea to make the song uplifting and triumphant. So I wanted to get something that was along those lines of “on the rise.” So how this idea of "Fall Back to Earth," there is a really long backstory about this Greek –
Dan: Oh no!
Zach: This guy named Ephesus. But that can be more, if you're interested, go to Wikipedia for that.
Dan: Yeah, just Google that.
Zach: We definitely wanted it to be about after you fall down, you can rise back up to the height that you were at before.
Nick: Chumbawamba-esque if you will.
Zach: Exactly, throw in a little Elton John.
As an up-and-coming band in the Philly area, what do you think about the city’s music scene?
Zach: It's been great to us so far. we're all just kind of in the same spot right now, and I think we're all just growing together.
Cole: A lot of it is uncharted. There is so much to see, so much to experience, so we are excited to keep branching out and see what we get.
Zach: What I've noticed is that it's a lot of tiny steps...For example, with these shows at Ortlieb's, we just have a lot of people reaching out, and once that happens, we have these moments where we can expand our audience and really start to improve our sound. So I think we're still definitely on the climb, but we've had these little moments as we go where someone in Britain will review one of our songs, and we will be like "Oh my god. What was that?!" Or opening up for Saint Motel. So it is constantly bringing more confidence to the group, and we are excited for the future.